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(Op-ed) Joy

I can feel confident saying that 2020 was a year without joy.

In a year where days blended together, bad news filled every corner of the media, and politics took the forefront of our lives during an unprecedented election, I, and many others, were left feeling drained and depressed by the end of it. 2020 brought up many new emotions and experiences for so many of us. I still can’t believe that the massive BLM movement after the unjust murder of George Floyd, the wildfires that ravaged California and the West Coast, and the impeachment of Donald Trump happened within the same 365 days as Parasite winning the Oscar for Best Picture and Prince Harry and Megan Markle leaving the royal family. And the viral cherry on top, the Covid-19 pandemic laid on top of it all like a weighted blanket that was more suffocating than comforting. By the time we reached the new year, over 20 million people in the U.S alone had been infected, accompanied by around 340,000 deaths. No matter who or what you blame the pandemic on, whether that be poor leadership from the government, or far-left liberals blowing everything out of proportion, those statistics represented a culmination of losses and heartbreak for so many people. By the time the holidays rolled around, a crucial feeling was missing from the usually bright and festive season: Joy. In a year like 2020, how was one supposed to find joy during a season of giving when so much had been taken?

On New Year’s Eve, as my family and I tried to be joyful on the last day of the year, we watched the new Pixar movie “Soul”. About a middle school band teacher who aspires to be a jazz musician, the movie follows Joe Gardener’s journey into the afterlife following a tragic accident, right after he has finally gotten the gig of a lifetime. During his journey back to his body, he sees his life from a new point of view, realizing that he has missed out on so much because he was so focused on what he was losing and had lost. Along the way, he learns to appreciate the good along with the bad. It ends with a new beginning for Joe, something that many of us have longed for this entire year.

There was a scene towards the end of the movie where Joe is sitting at his piano, reflecting on moments from throughout his life. Eating his favorite pie, teaching his students music, going to the beach with his mother and feeling the sand between his toes; moments that seemed insignificant before, but held new meaning once Joe had learned to find joy in those times rather than focusing on the big things he couldn’t achieve.

This scene stuck with me afterward. Here, we had a man who realized what he had missed out on and decided to live his life to the fullest. This is probably far from what happened with a majority of people who lived through any part of 2020. I definitely didn’t watch the news one day, see that doctors were telling us to stay home, only to go hang out with my friends because I didn’t want to miss out. Still, the scene illustrated the feelings that I had been lacking so much in 2020. So many of us have felt trapped in the present, which is completely understandable; there haven’t exactly been things to look forward to. However, Joe’s reminiscence on those simple moments caused me to remember similar moments from the past year. Petting my dog, watering my plants and watching them grow, cooking eggs in the morning; the simple joys in life that I had always taken for granted finally came to the forefront of my mind, reminding me of all I did despite the circumstances. Perhaps those moments saved me from going insane in 2020, we may never know.

In a “year without joy”, people still found ways to be joyful. I saw people learn new ways to see friends and family. I saw teachers continue to work at a job that made them joyful, even if it was through a computer screen and camera. I saw vaccines be created that could help with the reason so many of us lacked joy in the first place.

So while I could feel confident saying that 2020 was a year without joy, I can also feel confident saying that I discovered joy in places that I didn’t think I could.

Here’s to 2021, a new year to find joy in.

Ruby (she/her) is a junior in high school from Seattle, Washington. She has been a fan of literature her whole life, and enjoys reading and writing in her free time. She is also a co-editor of prose for Love Letters Magazine!

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